Are Ultrasound Features at the First Metatarsophalangeal Joint Associated With Clinically-assessed Pain and Function? A Study of People With Gout, Asymptomatic Hyperuricaemia and Normouricaemia
Background: The first metatatarsophalangeal joint (1st MTP joint) is a common location for sonographic evidence of urate deposition in people with gout and asymptomatic hyperuricaemia. However, it is unclear whether these are related to clinically-assessed pain and function. This study aimed to determine the association between ultrasound features and clinical characteristics of the 1st MTP joint in people with gout, asymptomatic hyperuricaemia and age- and sex-matched normouricaemic individuals. Methods: Twenty-three people with gout, 29 with asymptomatic hyperuricaemia and 34 with normouricaemia participated in a cross-sectional study. No participant had clinical evidence of acute inflammatory arthritis at the time of assessment. Four sonographic features at the 1st MTP joint were analysed: double contour sign, tophus, bone erosion and synovitis. Clinical characteristics included in the analysis were 1st MTP joint pain, overall foot pain and disability, 1st MTP joint temperature, 1st MTP joint range of motion and gait velocity. Statistical analyses adjusted for the diagnostic group of the participant. Results: After accounting for the diagnostic group, double contour sign was associated with higher foot pain and disability scores (P < 0.001). Ultrasound tophus was associated with higher foot pain and disability scores (P < 0.001), increased temperature (P = 0.005), and reduced walking velocity (P = 0.001). No associations were observed between ultrasound synovitis or erosion and the clinical characteristics. Conclusions: Ultrasound features of urate crystal deposition, rather than soft tissue inflammation or bone erosion, are associated with clinical measures of foot-related functional impairment and disability even in the absence of clinical evidence of current acute inflammatory arthritis. This association persisted regardless of the diagnosis of the participant as having gout or asymptomatic hyperuricaemia.